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Interview with Bifrost's Erlend Grefsrud, Co-Founder (Part One)

Erlend Grefsrud, Co-Founder of Bifrost Entertainment, chatted with Cat about the semi-mystical founding of Bifrost, why he thinks the Xbox One is “ill-conceived”, why you have to be crazy to start a game company in Norway, and games art.

CAT: Maja and Myriad don’t have a lot in common other than the letter “M” - what is your process for determining a game concept and direction?

Erlend: Games are so exciting because there's so much virgin territory. Sure, we have a map of the known world, but there are lots of regions simply marked Here Be Dragons. And I'm a bit of a dragon-slayer, so I like to head out there and see what I can find.

I usually start by looking at the state of games, at what's been explored, what's working, what's established as good practice -- and then I try to do something different. Obviously, I still stick to first principles and my general vision of What Games Are, I have no particular need to challenge that, but I want to expand that vision, present a new one that subsumes and exceeds the old one.

The goal with Myriad was to place the game system completely in players' hands. I want players to feel like they are making the game happen, rather than negotiating the vision of the developers.

I don't need to show players my clever ideas and make them live my vision -- I want them to explore the potential, and feel that they are just as much an active and creative part of the game experience. That's why I've shied away from narrative -- it forces too much on the player, makes the game more about my story than their experience.
Image from Myriad

CAT: Who is Bifrost Games and how exactly did this winter storm bring about your founding?

Erlend: Bifrost Games is the older, wiser successor to my first company, Strongman Games. I founded Strongman with Kalli Karlsson and Rohan Feldmesser in London in 2009, and we had a lot going for us -- everything but experience.

Kalli and I founded Bifrost along with partners from Norway while Strongman was still going, since Norway was finally developing a broader and more culturally relevant games scene and we wanted to be part of it.

We learned a lot of hard lessons from crash-landing Strongman, and that's really how Bifrost got properly started. We swallowed our pride, we looked at our mistakes, we decided to do it again, but better, stronger and faster.

That's Bifrost. The rainbow bridge connecting the land of mortals to the land of gods. 

CAT: Myriad is coming to Windows, Mac and Linux - what about consoles? 
What do you think of the current generation of consoles?

Erlend: We are aiming for release on the full range of PlayStation platforms, or at least the Vita and PS4. Neither Microsoft nor Nintendo have particularly clear or open licensing agreements, so we're holding off on them until the game is done and ready to be tailored for each platform. Since I'm developing in Unity, I can reach all the current-gen platforms no problem, and obviously the goal is to do that.

I'm also sorta-kinda interested in doing an iOS interpretation, but since the core gameplay simply can't be translated to iOS, it would be a pretty big job and I'm not sure the iOS market will embrace something as esoteric as Myriad. It would be fun, but probably pretty expensive and time-consuming as well.

I'm not entirely sure what I think about the consoles yet. The PS4 is primarily interesting because it, well, focuses on games, and I'm actually really excited about the streaming functionality. It's great that Sony recognizes that playing games can actually be a form of expression, and that there is value in watching games being played, not just playing them!

The Xbox One looks pretty ill-conceived to me. The Kinect is a complete fiasco, and it was doomed from the start. It's pretty telling of Microsoft's long-term strategic goals that they decided to foist it on gamers, and I'm very glad they've failed. I don't think Microsoft cares at all about games as a form, I think they saw games as a trojan horse for getting a media centre into people's homes. They've pretty much said so in the past.

I do love Nintendo, but mostly for their games and not for their hardware. The 3DS is a fun toy, and so is the Wii U, but it's hard to get excited about them as platforms when they are so clearly tailored to Nintendo's own products.

That's good for Nintendo, and I can't wait to see what they do with the Wii U, but I'm not exactly eager to make games for it. I'm more interested in seeing what Nintendo decides to do with it -- they haven't really let me down yet.
Image from Myriad

CAT: Have any plans to explore VR?

Erlend: Well, it would be pretty hilarious to put Myriad on VR, since it uses orthographic rather than perspective cameras, and if you think the early Oculus Rift demos were nauseating, Myriad will probably send you to hospital.

As for virtual reality as a form, that's more interesting. I'm not entirely convinced that the VR is particularly suited for games outside the first-person perspective, but I'm happy to be proven wrong.

I'd love to do something odd, like make a hacking game that's like the crazy VR sequences from early nineties movies, where the whole conceit is that you're trapped or at least wholly immersed in cyberspace. That would justify making the player a bit nauseous and playing with the possibilities of VR outside immersing you in environments as we usually understand them.

So yes, VR is cool. I don't expect it to change the world or anything, but if it settles into a nice little niche of hardcore enthusiasts that I can make weird and different games for, that's awesome.

CAT: What are your thoughts on Oculus VR?

Erlend: I really admire John Carmack, so I'm very interested in whatever he spends his time on, but I'm not overly fond of the Facebook connection. I've got an active imagination, and it's not exactly hard to imagine a world where all our relationships are mediated, where we edit our perception of reality to suit ourselves. Facebook wanting to perch screens on people’s noses brings us closer to such a future.

There is, of course, the possibility that Facebook "just" wants to make a cool virtual world you can play in with an avatar generated from your Facebook photos, with your Facebook friends. It would also be pretty cool if Facebook decided to treat the Oculus as a kind of console, with the world's biggest social network as backend. 

But I don't really think so -- Facebook is ultimately an advertising company, not an entertainment company, and that leads me to expect the worst.

Continue reading with Part Two here:

Day 26 | Bifrost Entertainment

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yoshiroaka1369d ago

Always interesting to hear developers views on the consoles on the market that are frank and to the point and not just tip toeing around the issues so as to not hurt any business relationships that they may want in the future. I appreciate that.

Cool that he's making a game on unity. Ive tinkered around with that a few times. Wanna see what he managed to make with it.

LightDiego1369d ago

Would be great this game for PS4 and Vita.
Really interesting interview.

Derekvinyard131369d ago

Lmao myriad on vr would send you to the hospital

Crazyglues1369d ago (Edited 1369d ago )

Yeah I too think Carmack is genius/ as I'm sure everyone does / always nice to see who developers look to as inspiration, so it will be interesting to see what happens with Oculus VR now that it's facebook owned, but I don't think the plan is to, - "perch screens on people’s noses to bring us closer to such a future."

- I think the plan is to keep it as what it is, but have facebook as the back-drop like with Whatsapp, were it didn't become a facebook app/ Just became owned by them - but I can see why he would expect the worst.

-and yes please do keep your eye on PS4 it may be one of the best places for these games, more and more indie games are shining there../ and I agree with him on XboxOne being pretty ill-conceived.

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oasdada1369d ago

On VR-"Myriad will probably send you to the hospital"

Lol was thinking the exact same thing

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